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Tampa Bay Water Settles with Contractor in Reservoir Lawsuit

Tampa Bay Water's board struck an unusual settlement deal Monday with the contractor that built its damaged regional reservoir, setting up a courtroom confrontation with HDR Engineering, the company that the utility and the contractor blame for cracks in the structure.

Normally when two sides in a lawsuit settle, one side pays the other some money to be released from the case. But the settlement that the regional utility's board approved after a closed-door session with its attorney calls for Montana-based Barnard Construction Co. to pay Tampa Bay Water no less than $750,000 and no more than $5 million in damages, depending on what a jury finds when the case goes to trial later this year.

The reason for the unusual arrangement, said Tampa Bay Water attorney Richard Harrison, is simple: Barnard Construction agrees with the utility that "the real culprit here is HDR, because the cracking was caused by their bad design." ...